Concussion and Schoolwork

concussionToday, Pediatrics released the results of a study which looked at academic performance in kids recovering from concussion. They looked at 349 students ages 5 -18 who had suffered a concussion. Not surprisingly, children who were still symptomatic from a concussion, reported more difficulty in school and those with more severe symptoms reported the most difficulty with academics post-concussion. While a study like this may not provide shocking results, there are some important take homes for parents.

— There are long term effects of concussion, and symptoms should be taken seriously.

— After a concussion, it is wise to inform not only coaches, but teachers and school administrators. After a head injury, even a mild one, students may need additional help and attention in school.

Educating ourselves and our children about the impact of head injury is important. Instruct your children in proper safety precautions, know the symptoms, and make sure your kids understand the side effects from a concussion can be much worse than just missing a few games.

— We can infer from this study, multiple concussions may significantly affect academics. Subsequent concussions should raise even more concern.

— After a concussion, parents need to pay careful attention to many things including not only physical symptoms, but emotional problems and school performance.

Hopefully, this study starts the conversation on how mild head injury should be addressed in school.

What Moms Really Want for Mother’s Day

what moms really wantI went shopping today. Just a few days before Mother’s Day, and the mall was packed … with moms. I went to the card store, and the Mother’s Day section was packed … with moms. I stopped at the food store and the aisles were packed … you get the idea

If you are a mother, there’s a good chance you have a mother, grandmother, mother-in-law, godmother, godmothers to your children and random “you are just like a mom to me” women. Maybe you are hosting, maybe you are visiting, maybe you are just spending the day with your own kids, but in any of these scenarios, Mother’s Day is a lot of work for … yup, you guessed it, moms.

And, for what? It is a day which starts with you cleaning all your linens after a failed surprise breakfast in bed, and quickly moves on to you making ridiculous exclamations of awe at things like clay bedazzled blobs meant to be God-only-knows what. These will sadly sit on your kitchen table for months. Likely you will end up wearing a macaroni necklace and will be covered in glitter and glue from a not-yet-dry masterpiece. Maybe your husband got you some last minute gifts, which he decides to wrap at the eleventh hour – all the while shouting for someone to bring him tape and paper. You’ll spend the next week trying to find time for returns, the return being time sensitive because he didn’t save the receipts.

While he is wrapping or helping the kids make last minute cards, you will be getting everything ready for whatever joys are in store for you. If you have older kids, much of the day will be spent sweating on athletic fields. If you’re lucky, at the end of the game, your child will bring you a wilted flower that the coach’s wife (me) picked up to try to make the kids, I mean the moms, feel special.

Then, it is off to lunch or dinner somewhere. Maybe you are with family. Maybe you are with your mother-in-law. You are probably with your kids. Even if the men actually do all the cooking – after the moms have done all the shopping and prep – it might not be the Mother’s Day of your dreams.

This got me thinking – what do moms really want? I know what I want, but I’m only one. I can’t speak for every mom. It turns out, however, I can speak for a lot of them. I asked a bunch of moms the simple question, “What do you want for Mother’s Day?” I got an early, wonderful Mother’s day gift. Not only did some of them have me laughing so hard my sides were splitting, I am so relieved it isn’t just me!

It is worth noting the moms I asked are some of the most wonderful and dedicated mothers I know. They are working moms and stay at home moms. They are boy moms and girl moms. They have both young and older children. They are kind and thoughtful people, intelligent women, and caring parents. They love their children passionately and unconditionally. They would walk through fire for them. And what they want most on Mother’s Day, is a f*%#ing break.

In no particular order, here is what mothers say they want for Mother’s Day.

I would like to not be called Mom for one day, or at the very least, I would not like to hear “MOM!!!!” or “MOhhhh-uhhhhhhhm.”

A hug, a kiss and an escape route.

I want someone to plan my kids’ summer camps and schedules, set it all up, and just tell me where they need to be. Oh, and then get them there.

I would like a Brinks armored car service to partner with Uber and drive my kids to their sports – safely and conveniently.

A hug, a kiss and an escape route.

I would like to wake up to a cheerio/goldfish/fossilized ice cream free car with a full tank of gas

I would like the mask Judy Jetson put on every morning so she didn’t look like crazy mom. Judy made mornings look so easy.

I would like just a few moments of peace and quiet.

I want a tech free day. No iPhones, no iPads, no iNothin’.

I want someone else to change diapers all day. I don’t want to lift a finger, unless it is the middle one.

I want to have not shopped for, prepared or cleaned up after any of the food that is consumed all day.

An IV drip of Chardonnay.

I want there to be no laundry.

I want a full day when I don’t have to once clean the kitchen.

I want to just finish a task I start without being interrupted to … wipe something, referee something, make something, watch something or fetch something.

I literally just walked in on the boys smelling each other’s asses. Can we add no butt-smelling to the list?

I want someone to bring me coffee in bed, and then LEAVE. Leave for an hour so I can watch the news in peace.

I want a day in my own house – alone.

I want to feel appreciated.

I want a raise, or at least a bonus.

I would like to not be called “squishy mom.”

A pitcher full of frozen margaritas.

I would like to go anywhere with my kids where I didn’t have to get them ready, pack the snacks or yell for them to get in the car.

I want to sleep in.

I want to have no plan at all, and I want everyone to be ok with that.

I want a full day when I don’t have to once clean the kitchen.

I want a thoughtful gift, like a dad would get on Father’s Day. I want an iPod with all my favorite artists preloaded. I want something which tells me my family knows I am more than a maid, a secretary and a chauffer.

I want a day by myself, in my own (clean) home.

A couch, expensive chocolate I don’t have to share, and Netflix.

I want to not worry about anyone else’s mood all day.

I want a whole day when I never once say, “C’mon!! Hurry up. We’re gonna be late!”

I want someone to get the house and the kids ready for school the next day — homework done, bodies clean, teeth brushed and lunches packed.

I want a day when I don’t have to drive anyone anywhere.

I want my kids not to fight – at least within earshot.

I would like to celebrate how much fun I was before I was a mom … making my sacrifices that much greater because of the awesome me I left behind.

And the most important wish, the one that makes all of the others worth having is: AND, I DON’T WANT TO FEEL GUILTY FOR WANTING ALL OF THE ABOVE.

Every single day, we cheer for, care for, clean for, cook for, and even fight for our children. We console, discipline, worry, instruct and intervene. We hug and kiss them and tell them we love them. They hug and kiss us and tell us they love us. If the only thing different about Sunday is that we had to shop for, buy and wrap a gift for our mother-in-law, why bother?

What Your Emojis Say About You


emojiI updated my phone this weekend. I didn’t want to, because I have a sneaking, paranoid suspicion that Apple is messing with me. Seems every time I update, it takes my middle aged brain longer to adjust. I also think there is a conspiracy to force me buy the latest iPhone before my scheduled upgrade. As soon as the new version comes out, my old phone becomes glitchy. It is important to note no one at the Genius Bar agrees with me, but hey, just because you are paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.

When I was forced to do this last update to avoid having to text upside down, I got a whole new buffet of emojis. For a few moments, I was happy face. I like emojis. I use emojis. But then, I became confused face. Sometimes, it takes me an inordinate amount of time to send a text, because I am searching for the perfect emoji to describe what I am feeling without actually having to describe what I’m feeling. More options, with more emotional subtleties, is only going to slow me down. Then, as is always the case for mothers, I became worried face.

I fear my kids are already losing the ability to communicate face to face. If they can substitute an emoji for every felling, for every sentiment and for every casual expression, what will be the point of ever looking someone in the eye? Insert Uh-oh face. The majority of derived meaning from face to face conversation comes from expression and inflection, not from the actual words themselves. Emojis are attempting to solve for the problem correspondance, especially in the form of quick response texting, has always had — miscommunication. When I really consider it though, my kids always seem to use the latest technology better and more effectively than me. Maybe I shouldn’t be worried face about the kids, maybe I should be scared face about us middle aged adults.

First, it was acronyms. The kids developed them, and we abused them. We used JK to offset the chance we offend someone, and we used it ad nauseam, almost as if we were afraid of offending someone with a text as simple as, “Will you pick up Maddy for soccer?” Throw a JK after that and no one knows what’s going on and Maddy is sitting on the porch without a ride. Then LOL came into favor. I have friends who just put it randomly in all their texts.  Either they were smoking pot all day and literally laughing out loud, or they were using the abbreviation incorrectly. It was as if they didn’t want the recipient to take anything they said too serious face. It revealed a deep insecurity about how their comments might be perceived, and said less about the text and more about the sender.

Now, we’ve replaced the acronyms with pictures and the possibilities are endless. I use them all the time, most often with those who know me best and will get my intention. What are my emojis saying about me, other than that I might have too much time on my hands or not enough words in my vocabulary?

Take a look at your most often used emojis. What do they say about you?

happyThis is called the joy emoji. If you are using it authentically, you are the happiest person I know. But, check yourself. Are you really so happy you are crying? This happens to me just about once a year, and only when the summer starts. Most other times, it is a gross exaggeration of the truth. Enter cynical face.

cynicalThis is my “yeah, right” emoji. If you are using it often, you are cynical and should perhaps lighten up. I probably just made you angry face.

angryAngry face is ok once in a while, especially if you are a parent, because you have children and that gives you the right to be pissed off. But beware of red, angry face.

red angryIt probably goes without saying if you are using red, angry face a lot in your texts, you should have your blood pressure checked. Red, angry face looks like a heart attack waiting to happen. Which would bring us to sad face.

really sadReally sad face replaces “Waaaaaaaa” for me. I just looked at my phone and realized I am using it way too much (second only to frustrated face), but I am in the midst of kids’ spring sports madness, so I am cutting myself a break. More concerning is this little guysad , which is less complaining-sad, and more really sad. If your friend is using this one a lot, time to take them out for a drink.

frustratedFrustrated face is my favorite emoji. I realize this could represent a major problem with my personality, but understand most of my texts right now are about schedules and carpools. How am I supposed to respond? LOL, JK

whewI call this one happy, whew face. If you are using it a lot, you might want to work on your organization skills. Lots of near misses can culminate in one major mistake, such as dressing your child in colonial clothes when the colonial celebration was the next day, just as an example winky face.

winkyAhhh, winky face, such a useful little emoji. It allows me to be sarcastic, ironic or sassy. Winky face is like a get out of jail free card. I can type whatever I want, and you can’t be mad or offended because I added winky face.  Warning: Overuse of winky face may start to diminish his powers.

snorinIf you are using snoring face a lot, take stock of your screen time right before bed. Stop texting at least a half hour before bedtime. It is terrible for your quality of sleep.

heart eyeskiss emojiI’ll group the little heart faces together. If these are in your most often used emojis, you’re a lucky person to have recipients for whom they mean something. Sending lots of love never hurt anyone, just don’t accidentally hit these guys on a work text. Hard to recover from that one.

Quick reminder: Your smartphone is actually SO smart, it can still work as a way to verbally communicate. Sometimes, there is no substitute for a human voice on the other end of the line.

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How to Deal with Lyme Disease

lymeReal Housewives’ star, Yolanda Foster’s struggle with Lyme disease is once again putting a spotlight on the illness. She is searching worldwide for a cure, but unfortunately for her, right now, the best defense is prevention and early identification. Lyme disease is treated with antibiotics, and in the vast majority of patients, the treatment is effective. In fact, there is some debate over whether chronic Lyme disease is a true diagnosis, or if patients suffering with pain, fatigue and neurologic symptoms post-treatment have a different disease altogether. Medical professionals do agree Lyme disease can result in debilitating symptoms if left untreated.

 

How do you protect yourself and your family?

 

Know the Facts

  • Lyme disease is transmitted by black-legged deer ticks
  • Lyme is a result of infection with the bacterium, Borrelia Burgdorferi
  • There is no evidence Lyme can be transmitted by any other mode
  • All ticks do not transmit disease

 

Be Proactive

  • Avoid tick bites, especially in areas known to harbor deer ticks.
  • Stay out of wooded areas or areas with high grasses
  • When hiking, stick to the trail
  • Cover as much skin as possible, with loose breathable clothing
  • Repel ticks with DEET or permethrin. Use according to directions. Adults should apply on children to avoid ingestion or inhalation.
    • For more information on insect repellants, visit the EPA guide

 

Check for Ticks

  • Infected ticks have to be attached to the skin for 36-48 hours
  • After coming in from the outdoors, check yourself and your kids
  • Black legged ticks can be as small as a poppy seed, so the search has to be very thorough
  • Look in hard to see areas, like the groin, scalp and armpits
  • Pets cannot transmit disease, but they can bring ticks inside the home. Check them as well.

 

Look for Symptoms

  • Symptoms of early Lyme disease usually appear within 3 – 30 days after infection and include:
    • Red, expanding bulls-eye rash starting at the site of the bite
    • Fatigue
    • Fever and chills
    • Muscle and joint aches
    • Swollen lymph nodes
  • 70-80% of patients will get the trademark Erythema Migrans rash
  • Because symptoms are vague, being vigilant and aware is key to getting timely treatment

 

Seek Medical Help

  • If you suspect you have Lyme disease, see your doctor immediately.
  • Diagnosis is best made by history and symptoms.
  • Blood tests can be a useful adjunct in some cases.
  • If untreated, the following symptoms can occur:
    • Rash on other parts of the body
    • Bell’s palsy – paralysis of the facial muscles
    • Meningitis symptoms including headaches and neck stiffness
    • Large joint pain
    • Heart Palpitations and dizziness

 

As with most things, the best defense is a strong offense. Understand Lyme disease, have a healthy respect for its potential severity and be proactive. My daughter was infected with Lyme disease while apple picking when she was three. Before I saw the rash, I thought I had a child possessed. She was cranky, irritable and generally intolerable. I was almost relieved when I saw the rash, because I could blame her behavior on something other than bad parenting. I also knew she could be treated effectively with a course of antibiotics. She was back to normal in less than a week. Parents, always remember kids may not be able to explain what they are feeling. If your gut tells you something isn’t right, see your doctor.

Fight Memory Loss

memory lossrecent study out of Duke University suggests teenage drinking may contribute to long term memory problems. Perhaps this explains the issues I’ve been having of late. Seems I am forgetting everything from where I parked my car to which children are mine. The cow is out of the barn on the teenage drinking — growing up in Queens, the legal age to buy may have been 21, but the bodegas sold to anyone who could ride a two-wheeler. I would love a do over in that department, but even if I got one, there are so many other factors affecting my memory.

Last week, I attended a lecture on Alzheimer’s Disease, hosted by Valley Hospital. While somewhere in the recesses of my aging limbic system, I store most of the information presented, it served as a great reminder — no pun intended.

Memory problems, when they are not the result of dementia, can be exacerbated by the following. If you are a parent, I am willing to bet you are experiencing the majority of these on a regular basis.

— stress/anxiety

— poor sleep/fatigue

— alcohol intake/medications

— over-scheduling/multi-tasking

— depression/mood problems

— aging

— having too many kids ;)

What can you do about it? We naturally lose brain function as we age. Just as the body ages in other ways — we can’t run as fast, we can’t see as well, we can’t jump without wetting our pants — the brain also ages, adversely affecting our memory. On top of this, pile on all the other causes listed above, and it is amazing most of us can get through the day.

You can fight back.

We are a society obsessed with exercising our bodies, but our minds need exercise as well.

— Play Games
My boys are loving Memory right now, and I can literally feel the cobwebs falling off when I play with them. I just taught my 13 year old how to play chess. It is amazing the brain skills this game requires. Crosswords and Sudoku are not a waste of time. Think of them as weight training for your mind. My husband was doing a work out the other day and the trainer made them memorize words before starting, and tested them when they finished. I love this combination of mind and body exercise.

— Reduce Stress
Try meditation. Headspace is a great app to help you get started. Yogis swear by the calming effects of their practice, and I’ve experienced it myself. Give it a try. Take some time each day to just sit and be. You will be surprised how effective this is at reducing stress.

— Organize your things and stick to routines
Put your keys in the same spot every time you come into the house. Get your children’s essentials organized into one space and make them responsible for them. Can’t remember where you park? Get into the habit of snapping a picture of the nearest sign. The more you can take some of the pressure off your memory, the clearer your remembering will be.

— Do things as soon as you think of them
This is my favorite tip. You need to buy a gift. Go online and do it now. You see something that needs to be put away. Do it now. You have an email to send or a call to make, do it now. The more efficient you are at getting things done, the less you will have to remember.

— Make lists and keep your calendar up to date
Keep an ongoing list of things needing to get done, and cross off after completion. Not only does this feel so good, you won’t have the feeling of, “I know I’m forgetting something.” Even if you think it is something you will remember, write it down anyway.

Those are the suggestions you might be able to follow. Of course, cutting down on alcohol, getting more sleep, saying no to more activities and having fewer kids would be ideal, but I’m a realist.  You should know when memory loss signifies a real problem. For the most part though, small issues with memory are nothing to worry about. When you are feeling troubled by them, take stock of your life. How are you sleeping? How much stress are you under? How many hats are you wearing? Sometimes, just acknowledging the problem might be a side effect of a crazy, busy life, will reduce your anxiety about it. REMEMBER to be kind to yourself, and forgiving of your shortcomings. You are not alone. There was something else I wanted to add, but I can’t think of it right now.

Read This Before You Get Pregnant Again

pregnancy spacingA study released by the CDC last week looked at the spacing between pregnancies in America. The recommended time between pregnancies is at least 18 months. This gives your body a chance to recover, and offers the best chance the pregnancy will end in a healthy, full-term birth. While the median interpregnancy interval (time between a live birth and a subsequent conception) is about 2 1/2 years, about a third of women are waiting less than 18 months after giving birth to conceive. Research shows the second pregnancy has an increased risk of complications, and the child has an increased risk of prematurity, autism, being born small for gestational age, and developmental disorders.

I found out I was pregnant with my second child about 7 months after I gave birth to my first. Oops … seriously, oops. It all turned out o.k., but I wouldn’t have planned it this way. Not only did I have to give up drinking for two summers in a row, I felt rundown and beaten up. After Serena (#2) was born, I struggled with constant guilt over the lack of attention I could give Madelyn (#1). I was exhausted, frazzled, resembled a pack mule on my ventures out of my apartment in NYC, and didn’t enjoy my first experience as a mom as I could have if I had had more time with just one child. (Just in case you are reading this, Serena, best mistake ever, of course.)

I see the appeal of having kids quickly. It is a kind of “bang it out all at once” mentality. You’re already knee deep in diapers and spit up, you might as well stay there. For moms and dads who start having kids a little later in life, it might seem like the only option if you want a bigger family. But, before you jump back on that horse — bad analogy — consider the research behind the more prudent decision to wait. Complications and risks aside, I can personally attest to the joy of watching older kids with younger siblings, the comforting perspective a little spacing offers, and the ability to better appreciate your children and your life when you don’t feel like a day care worker.

Parenting Tip: Pretend Your Child is Someone Else’s

parenting tip: pretend your child is someone else'sI am officially a full-blown “boy mom.” I got an email from Charlie’s pre-K teacher. He hit another boy. My first reaction was hit him back, but of course you can be arrested for that now. I suppressed that urge, because I don’t look good in orange. My next impulse was to lock him in his room for a week, but that’s probably illegal too. No TV for the rest of his life? That’s a punishment for me. My girls were not perfect pre-schoolers, but this was my first time dealing with any sort of misbehavior involving another child. I wanted to scream at him, but at the same time, I wanted to hold him and protect him from himself. Motherhood is a journey of crazy, mixed emotions.

I recently counseled a friend on a little issue her child was having, I can say “little” because it wasn’t happening to one of my kids. In that conversation, I was the voice of reason, defending the actions of small kids and putting things in perspective for her. Why couldn’t I think the same way about Charlie? Maybe I could. Rather than overreact because of anger, guilt at raising a child who would hit, and even, embarrassingly, embarrassment, I considered the advice I would pass on if it were someone else’s child.

It went something like this. Yes, you have to take this very seriously when you speak with him. Yes, Charlie needs to know that was wrong, and he can never do it again. No, he will not become the school bully because of one incident. No, the other child will not hate him, nor will his mother. This does not mean he is a bad kid, just because he did a bad thing.

I took some deep breaths, sat Charlie down and pretended he was someone else’s child. He told me what happened, and started crying immediately. He said he apologized to his friend, they were still friends and he wouldn’t do it again. He seemed so little and sweet when I suspended my feeling of being responsible for all his words and actions. Charlie is his own little person, he will make many mistakes, and I hope I can help him learn from them. I spoke with the other mom, who was amazing and made me feel so much better. I went from feeling like I was going to be sick, to simply hoping it won’t happen again, just by pretending he had another mom.

The connectedness between mother and child is wonderfully intense, but it can get in the way of rational thinking and common sense. It works both ways. It can make us feel unreasonably accountable for our children’s mistakes. And, it sometimes puts on us blinders, so we can’t see our own child’s faults and shortcomings.

When you find yourself getting heated over an issue or a problem with your child, whether he or she is on the giving or receiving end, take a step back. What is the advice you would give to a friend? What would be your approach if you were given the task to discipline someone else’s child? There are moments, dinnertime and homework time specifically, when I wish someone else would parent my kids. And there are other times, times when calmer heads should prevail, when someone else could do a better job. Since we don’t have substitute parents on call, the next best thing is to take a deep breath, close your eyes, and pretend your child is someone else’s. I promise this will calm you down, allow you to think clearly and produce better results.

Too Good to be True? Beer that makes you look younger

collagen beerIt is FINALLY here … beer that makes you look better, younger even. This is contrary to everything I know about the beverage. In college, it was responsible for the bloated face and the freshman 15. Now, it is responsible for the occasional swollen eyes and the hard to loose last 5. Over the years, it has been blamed for more than a few poor decisions and a couple of kids. Now, they are telling me it has a chance to redeem itself. Now, after all we’ve been through together, beer is going to make me look younger!! You go, beer!

I wish that were true, but I’m skeptical.

The Japanese brewery Suntory, released a beer called “Precious” (which makes it sound like a stripper or stripper’s dog) that contains 2 grams of collagen per can. Collagen is a protein found in the connective tissue of our bodies; the bones, tendons, muscles and skin. It literally holds things together.

We hear about it a lot today as a beauty issue and product. Why do you get wrinkles and sagging? Your skin loses collagen as you age, especially after the age of 40, and these changes, we all resent and want to reverse, are the result. In response, companies have added to collagen to anti-aging lotions, dermatologists use collagen in fillers, and laser therapy aims at boosting our natural collagen production. Poorly advised actresses overdo it with the collagen to create swollen, pouty lips.

Can ingesting it directly provide benefit? Japanese women seem to think so. Reportedly, they are buying collagen supplements by the bucketful. The science says otherwise. Collagen is broken down after you eat it, and is not then in any form the skin can use to revitalize itself. Lotions with collagen don’t seem to work either, by the way. The molecules are too big to be absorbed.

Sorry! I wanted it to be true too! Beer, I will just have to continue to love you with all your flaws.

beer collagen

 

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